We’re all guilty of it: assuming our audience is motivated by the same things that we are.
But they aren’t.
You may think your non-profit organization’s supporters are concerned with a massive new initiative you’ve undertaken. But they’re more interested in how efficiently you’ve budgeted the funds they contributed last month.
Maybe you’d love to tell them about a nationwide effort to fight hunger, research a disease, or bring technology into the schools. But they want to hear about what’s happening in their backyard, in the next town over, or down the street.
So how do you connect with the differing motivations that drive people to give?
In a 2010 study, Hope Consulting found that donors tend to fall into one of six categories:
- Repayer – supports organizations that have impacted the donor or someone they care about
- Casual Giver – gives on a whim, when it’s easy, for specific premiums, etc.
- High Impact – donates to organizations they feel make the biggest difference
- Faith Based – contributes to charities that are in line with personal or religious beliefs
- See the Difference – likes to see the direct impact of their contribution
- Personal Ties – supports groups in response to requests from friends or when they personally know someone working at the organization
At the end of the day, you can’t settle with aligning your fundraising message with the organization’s beliefs. It also must be in line with the beliefs and motivations of your donors, or else you’re wasting your efforts.
Take a look at your file — perhaps with the help of a partner with data analysis expertise — and see if you can categorize your donors. Pay special attention to the types of messaging they’ve responded to, the frequency of their gifts, and any special ties they may have.
Then think about your current efforts and make sure they’re positioned to make the most impact with these segments. You may need to make changes:
- Tie your ask amounts to tangible items, such as giving $50 to pay for a child to have access to medical care for the “See the Difference” donors.
- Incorporate more personalization and use of the donor’s name for the “Personal Ties” donors.
- For the “Repayer,” reference how your organization has helped the donor in the past and why you need them to return the favor now.
You get the picture.
And when in doubt, test, test, test. If you have access to your donors, reach out to them and get firsthand information on what they care about. Try opening your letters with different messages. Conduct focus groups over the phone.
Whatever you can do, it’ll be worth the effort, and you’ll emerge on the other side with a more engaged donor base and better results for your organization.
Laura Thompson here, one of the Nexies working to improve our clients’ results through finance fundamentals. I’ve heard people from a lot of organizations refer to accountants as the “historians,” but keeping on top of the historical information is only part of what we do. Although your controller might not be comfortable with including “fortune teller” in his or her job description, it’s not too far off. We apply historical financial data to forecast bottom-line results every day, and at Nexus Direct, it helps us bring added value for our clients.
How do we keep our crystal ball in working order? The way to continue improving forecasting accuracy is by knowing what information is critical in spotting trends, which requires 1) a deep analytic dive into our clients’ marketing data before we partner with them, and 2) regularly scheduled follow-up analyses which allow us to identify any shifting trends in membership, the competition or industry regulations.
What doesn’t change is our focus on our clients’ goals, which are communicated clearly at the outset of the business relationship. These goals often revolve around increased revenue or membership, which is reconciled with our own internal research and projections based on a broad spectrum of factors, including results.
One of the most important aspects of ensuring excellent results for Nexus Direct’s clients is by implementing and following processes, which I believe to be necessary in every department if you are to succeed. By following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), your processes allow for a custom business model, which in turn allows your results to be quantified.
Financial models are used throughout all the touch points at Nexus Direct, from Account Planning to Creative. These models give us a cohesive structure that eliminates surprises from an expense standpoint and provides our clients with the freedom to enjoy their campaign results.
During industry conferences, people have asked, “How can your Creative Department use financial models?” To some, it may seem like an odd pairing, but it actually gives our team members the flexibility to design a campaign that can be successful at all price points because they have a clear understanding of each client’s budget.
With these client expenses identified for each program, campaign and project throughout the year, Nexus Direct is able to focus entirely on results and help clients meet — and exceed — their established goals. Looking into the crystal ball, we can tell our clients that “sticker shock” will be a non-issue, with the potential to launch additional test programs with the savings in their budget.
When clients receive the final invoice, they’ll find it to be very close to what they approved on the project estimate. This consistency builds confidence in their Nexus Direct partnership, as the invoice history reflects the output of our initial forecasting.
I’m proud to work within a Finance Department that audits the jobs as they flow through our internal teams to ensure we run a tight ship. I’m proud of the processes implemented by Nexus Direct that allow our outside CPA firm to audit our financials and confirm that we’re in compliance — something that’s not usually found in privately held companies but shows our commitment to achieving the best results for our clients and providing a solid working environment for our fellow Nexies.
As an Account Director, I’ve had the opportunity to create and manage many new client relationships. A few of them involved starting direct marketing programs from scratch, but most of the organizations contacted our team because of a struggling program and the need for a fresh perspective.
Part of Nexus Direct’s strategic process with any new relationship is identifying pain points — where are the biggest challenges? 9 times out of 10, this includes reactivating lapsed donors/supporters/members/you name it. (I’m going to use donors for the sake of this post.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, “We have a large donor pool, but a large portion is lapsed. How can we re-engage the people who haven’t given in several years?”
If you research industry publications or direct marketing resources, you’ll find an abundance of suggestions for doing this: sending “Final Notice” packages, personalizing the direct mail package or email with giving history, sending questionnaires to find out how frequently they’d like to receive communications or what messages are most engaging to them, and so forth. But surprisingly, none of these suggestions include segregating the single-gift lapsed donors and the multi-gift lapsed donors — those who have given once vs. those who have given more than once. And to me, this may be the easiest way to pinpoint those most likely to respond to your efforts.
Take a minute and think like a donor. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, as long as it’s something you care about. If you’ve given one gift, and only one gift, it could’ve been because you were intrigued by an email subject line, or there was a heart-wrenching message within a letter, or maybe just because it was the end of December and you were maximizing your tax-deductible contributions. (I’m married to an accountant who always makes a few well-timed donations at the end of the year.)
But let’s say you’ve given more than once. This shows a different level of commitment. You’re past the flashy creative, the tactics on an envelope designed to get you inside — all of that. At this stage, you’ve shown a dedication to the organization, a connection to their mission, and a much higher propensity to give than someone who has given just one gift. As a marketer, I know which donor I’d rather try to re-engage…how about you?
So the next time you’re looking to reactivate donors from a large lapsed donor pool, focus on the multi-givers first. You may want to test them against the one-timers (just to make yourself feel good), but if you’re looking for low-hanging fruit, there’s where you’ll find it.